Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
Overall Objectives
Research Program
Highlights of the Year
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: Overall Objectives

Social Collaboration Platforms

On-line social networks have had a fundamental and lasting impact on the Internet. In recent years, numerous applications have appeared that go beyond the services originally provided by “pure” on-line social networks, such as posting messages or maintaining on-line “friendship” links. These new applications seek to organize and coordinate users, often in the context of the sharing economy, for instance in order to facilitate car-sharing (e.g. BlaBla car,, short-term renting (e.g. AirBnB,, and peer-to-peer financial services (e.g. Lending Club, Some systems, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, have given rise to new distributed protocols combining elements of cryptography and distribution that are now largely discussed in the research community, and have attracted the attention of policy makers and leading financial actors.

The challenges faced by such social applications blend in many ways issues already discussed in the two previous subsections and cast them in an application-driven context. These social collaboration platforms require mechanisms that go beyond pure message propagation, with stricter consistency and robustness guarantees. Because they involve connected users, these applications must provide usable solutions, in particular in terms of latency and availability. At the same time, because they manipulate real-world transactions and objects (money, cars, accommodations) they must also provide a high level of consistency and guarantees. Many of these applications further operate at a planetary scale, and therefore also face stark scalability issues, that make them highly interesting case studies to investigate innovative architectures combining decentralized and centralized elements.

Formalizing and characterizing the needs and behaviors of these new applications seems particularly interesting in order to provide the fertile ground for new systems and novel theoretical work. The area of social applications also offers avenues for knowledge transfer and societal impact, along two dimensions. First, practical and usable approaches, back by a deep understanding of the foundation of distribution and coordination, are likely to find applications in future systems. Second, developers of complex social applications are often faced with a lack of robust scalable services (The repeated debugging of MongoDB's replication algorithm (e.g. see is a telling illustration of the difficulties encountered by development teams when building such platforms.) that can be easily exploited to harness the latest understanding of large-scale distributed coordination. We therefore think these applications offer an opportunity to design and deliver modular reusable bricks that can be easily appropriated by a large population of innovative developers without requiring the level of deep understanding usually necessary to implement these solutions from scratch. Providing such reusable bricks is however difficult, as many interesting formal properties are not composable, and a unified composable theory of distributed systems still need to be fully articulated.